The new Tom Waits
in my quest to respond to your influence and to have an open mind, i found some blogs on tom. and below that some reviews of the new, controversial cd:
conversaton between waits and elvis costello: read
a tom waits blog: read
blog entry on new waits cd: read
From Amazon: one good, three bad reviews of the new cd. (most were good by the way, i figured you didn't need the ones where people blindly think he's amazing.)
Brilliant, October 20, 2004
Waits, with his voice like unsanded timber, has ripped a masterpiece out of his vocal chords. His musical genius is in form here, raw and roaring, as well as hauntingly melodic. Don't wait for this one--get it now, blast it like the wind on a Halloween night. From "Hoist That Rag" to "Dead and Lovely" to "Make It Rain", Waits takes modern music to task by taking old forms and injecting them with enough blood and sweat to make me a believer in true resurrection... this album is roaring with poetry, grit, and rhythm. And it's capped off by the single best political song of this year's race, a poignantly-questioned monologue from a weary soldier who's stuck in a war he doesn't understand...
I don't know...
One thing for sure, this is an ugly CD: ugly music, ugly lyrics, ugly production, ugly packaging. Not that I think that makes it no good, but a prospective listener should be forewarned.
My fear about this CD is that Waits is pandering to the worst tendencies in his long-time listeners. He seems to be feeding hipness and brutality to the Starbucks set, who sit around and fantasize about how cool it would be to drink whiskey and murder someone. I'm not sure that I'll listen to this one very often, and I'm not sure why I'd want to.
I don't know...
ALICE'S BLOOD MONEY ILL-SPENT, October 21, 2004
It's very possible that the world is right and I'm all wrong, but I found this disc boring. I'm not sure what all the hub-bub is about the return of Marc Ribot as Waits' guitarist, but if he was meant to be some galvanizing catalyst for the creative juices, it somehow strikes me as only galvanizing, period. Not his fault anyway. The material here never grabbed me and I've listened thru this disc half a dozen times, convinced I was missing something. I was. But let's not get into that. Nearly as soporific as his appearance in Jarmusch's COFFEE AND CIGARETTES (one of the worst films ever made), Waits here seems equally uninspired in his delivery. There are all the usual Waits' cliches: rejects from the poetry of Charles Barkowski, but where in MULE VARIATIONS the tales seemed to tell profoundly moving stories, hillarious episodes, or bizarre incantations, here it is as though the author just whipped out his stock trademarks and took what were the most stultifying musical concepts in ALICE and BLOOD MONEY, and reset it all here. Not until the last song on the CD does anything really happen that seems to pull on the human soul and heart, and this isn't an A list song. Unfortunately no one's told Waits that the age of hidden tracks is over, so after a boring few minutes, you get to hear a bit more of the cacphonous howling that infuses several of the tracks here.
Maybe that's the point. It seems to be an album about death anyway.
REAL GONE!, October 21, 2004
Reviewer: Kimado (United Kingdom of America) - See all my reviews
Being a huge tom waits fan for some years now, i was to say the least a little excited with the prospect of another tom waits album, so after reading a favourable review in mojo magazine i purchased the cd on the release date...... i can say this is tom waits' worst album ever. the lyrics are still great but with the turntable scratching and beat boxing it seems a little fake and for want of a better word disgusting. All is not bad though a few tracks stand out such as 'dead and lovely' wich is a beautiful song and can really imagine it being used in a tarrantino film. 'hoist that rag'reminisent of bone machine album which for me is tom waits' best album behind small change. 'hows it gonna end', 'circus' represents everything i love about tom waits twisted intense imagery subtle laid back beats and and little sprinkles on sonic genius.
thinking about it there are alot of songs on this album i like but i can't get past the turntables and beat box (it is just not tom waits) i hope that's not the direction tom waits is going.
Not as great as everyone says, October 21, 2004
Not that it isn't great. But I can't take fans seriously when they say this is the greatest Waits album ever, because in my own mind, it doesn't come close. True, it's better than Mule Variations, and it's better than Blood Money, and it's better than Bone Machine. But it's not better than Alice, it's not better than the Eighties trilogy. The first time I listened to it, I liked it well enough. The second time I didn't like it too much, and I entered a state of depression for several days, because no new album matters more to me than a Tom Waits album. The main problem I had was just how distorted and lo-fi the sound was on alot of tracks. I still feel now, as a convert to the album, that the lo-fi sound is overdone. I would have preferred the brilliance of Hoist The Rag without the distraction of the unpleasant production. And I say that as someone who definitely appreciates lo-fi recordings . . . but it just seems to detract from the excellence of the musical performance. On first listen, I really didn't like the seemingly unending reggae-blues of Sins Of The Father; it reminded me too much of Get Behind The Mule, which was a track that bored me most times I heard it. I thought, why drag this on for ten minutes? Over time I've come to like it more, but I still think the length is unnecessary, and the vocal is too messy at times. I also have to say that the absence of piano isn't really a great thing, since Tom's piano playing brings alot of warmth and soul to his recordings. The only warmth one can really find on this album is in the final song, Day After Tomorrow. There are other things that don't please me here, too. The overenthusiastic scratching from son Casey on the opening track attempts to ruin an excellent beginning. The vocal is buried way down on this track, and the scratching is right in your face, and so is the guitar, so it's like the listener has to cut through the jungle of sound to get to the actual tune. Listening to the track on headphones makes it easier. But I think Tom could have done a better job on this piece, in terms of the production and mix. Like others have said, it's an album that requires numerous listens, but one also has to forgive Waits certain things before one can enjoy everything on offer. In the past he was one of the masters of the vocal rhythm of a line, but he gets out of sync on this album on certain lines, he falls slightly behind or loses his way, as if these were vocal demos, rather than the finished article. I guess such imperfections are appealing to some, but I find them something of an annoyance. The highlights for me are Don't Go Into That Barn, Hoist The Rag, Green Grass and Circus. The latter is perhaps his best spoken word piece ever. The way he says about the tattoo 'and it hurt like hell' is very striking. It's true that the beatboxing by Tom on the album is quite impressive, although it's overused, in my view. By the time that Baby Gonna Leave Me comes along, it feels like a bit too much. At the same time, it's a shame that Clang Boom Steam only lasts forty seconds, because it's one of the better examples. I would have given the album five stars, if it weren't for all the other rave (or raving) reviews. I have a problem with the things said by Waits' fans. I say that as a hardcore admirer myself, owning everything the guy has ever released. Their hyperbolic praise does not do any justice to the music itself. Yes, Tom is in all likelihood, the most important musical artist of his generation. But why waste time going on about this? I'm someone who has very little time for Bob Dylan; I think he's the most overhyped musical artist in the history of music. I don't want to see Tom Waits end up mythicised and made a fiction like Dylan. There are many great musical artists, but the greatest honour to be paid to them, is to shut up and listen to the music, not go on about it ad nauseam. To listen is to appreciate. Waits has his flaws, like all great artists. His consistency deserves loyalty and admiration, but not sycophancy. Real Gone is a worthwhile addition to the Waits cannon, and there are moments of genuine greatness here. It may be a masterpiece in its own muddy and messy way. But anybody's hyberbolic opinion doesn't transform the music itself in any way. And time ultimately proves the only sober judge. Enjoy this album, but don't waste time gushing about its merits. Listen, absorb, reflect. It is what Waits himself would no doubt ask of his listeners.